Taking a Sabbath day is something I am passionate about and grateful to share with you because it has had an incredibly positive impact on my life.
The concept of a Sabbath day comes from the Bible which is why today’s post will start there: in the Bible. The Sabbath is mentioned several times throughout the Bible [ref]Two additional times in the Bible the topic of the Sabbath is mentioned. The first is when God created the world and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3) and the second is Jesus’ commentary on the Sabbath throughout the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.[/ref] but is most prominently described in the Old Testament book of Exodus in chapter 16.
I. GOD’S STORY
A. The Context of Exodus 16
The context of Exodus 16 is an exciting one! Moses has just led God’s people–the Israelites–out of slavery in Egypt. With God’s guidance Moses leads them out away from Egypt despite the desire for Pharaoh, the Egyptian King, who wants to recapture the people whom he just let go. Thus God parts the Red Sea and allows the Israelites to pass through it safely while the Egyptian Army fails to cross.
At this point, the Israelites complain about two things:
- Not having enough food to eat
- That they would have been eating good meat and bread if they were still in Egypt
B. The Passage of Exodus 16
This context leads us to the revelation and teaching about the Sabbath to God’s people.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual. . .” (Exod 16:4-5, NLT)
Then we skip some verses where people complain and God gives them meat.
1. God has a plan for the Sabbath at the beginning.
If you look at the Bible as one long story of God’s revelation to us about Him, His teachings, and His people, this story is at the very beginning of what is shared in the Bible. The Sabbath was part of God’s plan from the beginning.
2. God has not even given the Israelites Manna (which was the food they would eat daily for 40 years) yet, but He is already talking about the Sabbath.
In this story, God has not given the people the food they will be eating, yet He is telling them how to live and how to work with the Manna.
3. God has not given Moses any commandments or laws to teach the people.
Perhaps the insight I find most interesting about this story is that God reveals his teaching and purpose of the Sabbath before He gives his commandments and laws to Moses. This topic of the Sabbath precedes any other laws or commandments given to the Israelites to obey.
4. The tendency of the Israelites was to provide for themselves, not to trust God.
It is fascinating how relevant this is to the American culture which we live in. Often we do not trust God even if He has told us He will provide. It is our human and independent nature to attempt to provide for ourselves, not to trust God.
II. MY STORY
A. My Work Week
Back in 2008 I was working hard. In fact, I was working extremely hard. Everyday I worked a solid eight hours at United Way of Stanislaus County, then I would work two or three hours on A Day of Hope, then I would start the day over again. In addition to the weekdays of maintaining that schedule, twice a month on a Saturday I would lead a fundraiser car wash for A Day of Hope. The car wash consisted of staying up until about 9pm or 10pm on Friday night gathering all the supplies in preparation for the next day.
For A Day of Hope, our car washes were not the normal two hour long High School Cheerleader car washes where the kids start and a couple hours later they are done. Our car washes were from 9am until 7pm, a total of 10 hours of work on a Saturday. This meant 10 hours of working in the hot California heat in addition to driving around picking up and dropping off volunteers.
B. My Sundays (before Sabbath days)
My Sundays would then be filled with all the other normal duties that needed to be done for a nonprofit program such as A Day of Hope. Those duties included sending out donation request letters, thanking volunteers, updating our website, running social media, etc.
(With all this work, no wonder I wrote a book and passed off the work to someone else, right!?)
Oh, and did I mention that I also coordinated the Chick-fil-A Leadercast at our local church every spring. This meant the same amount of work as the car washes, just for one-time in the Spring instead of twice a month for the entire summer.
With this crazy work schedule, I was getting burnt out. My body was falling apart and I was mentally exhausted. I realized I had to change when I received news that I had tendinitis in my arm as a result of simply working too much and not allowing my body to get enough sleep.
C. My Sundays (after Sabbath days)
As a result, I started to take one day off per week. On this day off, I did no work on a computer, no writing, and no talking on the phone about work. The only thing I would do is sleep in, attend church, watch movies, and maybe read a book or my Bible. I did not realize it at the time, but I was beginning to take a personal Sabbath day every week as the Bible instructs.
The results I received were amazing. The biggest difference was that the pain in my arm which had become worse and worse went away. I also noticed that I was more refreshed and mentally sharp both at work and at home.
It has been about four years since I started maintaining a Sabbath day and I still practice it even now. Some weeks I “cheat” a little because of family or work commitments, but most of the time I enjoy a Sabbath day off.
D. Benefits of the Sabbath
With some reflection, I now see three main benefits to taking a Sabbath day:
1. A Sabbath day allows me to work harder.
Taking one day off per week to rest is a reset button. After a day of rest I feel refreshed, revived, and ready to work again. With that refreshed body and mind, I am actually able to work hard and do better work by offering my best self to my work.
2. A Sabbath day gives me a mental break. As I get older I am noticing that more of my work requires my mental energy and less of my physical strength. A day of rest helps my brain relax so that when I return to work, there is some room in my brain. I have actually found that a day of rest helps me get good ideas and new ideas that I might not have ever had if I was simply working all the time.
3. A Sabbath day allows me to work harder because I see the end of the week.
This is something I would not have realized at first, but definitely has impacted my work. When I know that I am going to take a Sunday off of work, I notice I am able to work harder during the week. I am able to work harder because I know that on Sunday I will be rewarded with a refreshing day off.
III. YOUR STORY
A. What the Sabbath Does for You
The main reason I have dedicated three entire days of blogging (and close to 3,000 words of writing) is that the Sabbath has the ability to give you a,
- new outlook on life because of a new lifestyle
- new ability to focus on your work while you are working because you know you are eventually going to have a day off
- new ability to not focus on work while you are not working because you know you have a day off to relax and will be working the next day
B. Origin of the Word “Sabbath”
The word “Sabbath” is derived from the Hebrew word which means to “cease” and “desist.” In ordinary terms, the Sabbath basically means a one day break each week from normal work and tasks. These are items such as work for your job, household chores, cooking, etc.
C. What the Sabbath Teaches Leaders
The activities you do or do not do on the Sabbath are up to you and vary depending on your lifestyle. However, I am not sure if there is a specific right or wrong thing to do on the Sabbath that can be applied to all people everywhere.
With that said, I believe the Sabbath teaches two things to leaders:
1. It teaches you to trust God to provide.
When taking one day off per week there is an element of trust you must have for God to help get the work done that needs to get done. Many times I have went to bed Saturday night (my normal Sabbath day is Sunday) knowing that there was work I needed to get done before Monday which was not complete. When things like that happen, it takes trust in God to have Him organize things in order for them to work out. Interestingly, when I stay committed to taking that Sabbath day, things always work out.
2. It teaches you to focus on God.
If you are like me, when you finally start taking days off, you suddenly have lots of free time and do not know what to do with it. As a result, the simple act of taking time off gives mental space for you to think about God, who He is, and what He is doing in your life. This is perhaps the best practice of the daily Sabbath: free time to think and focus on God.
Question: What is your story of taking a Sabbath?